Do You Have Public Speaking Anxiety? Overcome Your Fear

Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

 

Some of the most common public speaking advice we hear is to “just keep putting yourself out there” until you get more comfortable. If you’re someone who deals with public speaking anxiety, you probably detest this advice, as well you should. It’s basically the same thing as saying, “Torture yourself for a long time, and eventually it won’t feel like torture anymore.” Not exactly the most comforting advice. 

While it is true that practicing is a great way to overcome your fear, that doesn’t mean that you need to practice in front of crowds of people. Instead, you can give yourself opportunities to work on your public speaking in a controlled, judgement-free environment with the help of an expert who can guide you through rough patches and give you helpful tips to accentuate your strengths and make the whole process more comfortable. 

I’m talking, of course, about working with an executive speech coach. 

Whether you want to advance at work, need help making it comfortably through interviews, or simply want help reducing social anxiety in your personal life, executive speech coaching can give you the opportunity to practice your public speaking in a way that is comfortable, relaxed, and confidence building. 

“Just putting yourself out there” might work for some people, but it will inevitably be a much more painful and stressful process than it needs to be. By working with a speech coach, you can take the pressure off and work on your speaking skills on your own terms. In addition, rather than simply improving via trial and error, you can get expert feedback on aspects of your speech that you may not even notice. For example: how is your diction, your pacing, your body language, or your projection? These are things that can be difficult to accurately assess on your own. 

But beyond corrections and a sounding board, the right speech coach can use an array of advice, speaking exercises, and mindfulness routines to help you reduce your stress and build both your confidence and effectiveness as a speaker. From meetings to toasts to interviews to presentations, with a little bit of guidance, you can reduce your anxiety in any number of work and personal situations. 

To find a Chicago speech coach who might be a good fit for you, give our office a call. BNM offers free consultations to discuss your speech goals and assess your strengths and areas for improvement. Call now to learn more.  

Simple Ways You Can Participate in Better Speech and Hearing Month

Better Speech and Hearing Month

 

May is one of our favorite months of the year because it is Better Speech and Hearing Month.  

BSHM is a great time of year to educate the people around you about speech and language disorders, to be an advocate for the people in your life who deal with speech or hearing troubles, and to celebrate all the different ways that we communicate with one another.  

Here are a few simple ways that you can help spread Better Speech and Hearing Month awareness: 

Schedule a hearing exam 

If you’ve found that you need to turn the volume on your TV up louder and louder to hear your favorite shows, or if you have a little one whose language is progressing a bit slowly, consider scheduling a hearing exam. Call up your family doctor to schedule an appointment. 

Schedule a speech and language consultation 

Many speech language pathologists (including BNM) offer free consultations to find out if you or your children are dealing with a speech or language disorder and what steps to take next. With children in particular, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the normal ups and down of developing language skills and speech issues that might require the help of an SLP. That’s why it’s important to take the time to find out. Arming yourself with information is the first step toward helping your children become strong, confident communicators. 

Spread BSHM awareness on social media 

Get online and share your stories about speech and hearing challenges that your family has faced or the unique ways that you have found to communicate. Celebrate communication diversity and spread useful information to help others learn from your experience.  

Become an ASHA advocate 

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is a wonderful resource full of information about how you can advocate at the state and local levels on behalf of people with speech, language, and hearing disorders. Learn more here. 

Get your school involved 

If your children are in school, reach out to their teachers or principals about including Better Speech and Hearing topics in this month’s curriculum. ASHA has some great tips on possible school activities, such as art projects about all the different ways that people communicate, lessons on protecting our hearing, and classroom discussion that can help build awareness and understanding. 

5 Tips to Speak with Confidence at Work

Speak with Confidence at Work

If you’re someone who absolutely dreads speaking up at work, you’re not alone. For many people, public speaking is their number one fear, and it’s understandable. We are social creatures – we have an innate desire to connect to each other, to be accepted by one another, even to impress one another. And when we give a presentation or have a one-on-one meeting with our bosses, those are chances to be rejected, to fail, to be cast out.  

BUT every one of those experiences is also an opportunity to do exactly the thing that we all want – connect. The problem is that a lot of us focus on everything that can go wrong rather than everything that can be gained from a successfully delivered speech. The benefits drastically outweigh the possible downsides, so it’s time to start focusing on the good. 

If you have a meeting or some sort of speech coming up at work that you’re are dreading, here are five simple tips to help you relax, feel more confident, and focus on the positive: 

1. Stand like Superman. 

Research has shown that standing in a power pose can actually boost your mood and your confidence in a matter of minutes. It’s sounds silly, but literally taking a few minutes to stand with your feet apart, your chest up, and your hands on your hips (like Superman) is a great way to feel bigger, stronger, and more capable. It’s a little mind trick that can work wonders before a big presentation. 

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. 

If you’re giving a speech, read it out loud at least three times before delivering it to practice your pacing, reword any tricky parts, and just generally get comfortable with your words. If you’re giving a presentation or having a serious conversation, you probably don’t want to be fully memorized, but you do want to know your material inside and out. Having answers to every big question ready to go will help you feel more confident. 

3. Stop preparing and take a walk. 

Once you know your stuff, it’s actually best not to rehearse right up to the last minute. Instead, literally go take a walk. Walk around your office building or in the park next to your work. Get the blood flowing, get out some of your nervous energy, and maybe run over a few points from your presentation in your head. The act of walking will help you relax and feel more confident. 

4. Pick up a few mantras. 

Again, it sounds silly, but mantras can be incredibly powerful things. Finding a few simple sentences that you can repeat in your head during times of stress can help alleviate tension and bring you toward a state of mindfulness – not analyzing the moment your living as you’re living it, but instead just being present in the moment without judgement. One of my favorites is “Only good things can happen.” In most cases, it’s true. If you flub a salary negotiation, for example, it’s not like you’ll get a pay cut. Only good things can come out of that conversation. 

5. Plan ahead. 

Being a good planner and knowing yourself are key parts of exuding confidence, even if you aren’t actually as confident as you appear. For example, if you know from past experience that you’re likely to sweat during a presentation, wear clothes that will keep you cool and that won’t show sweat so that you don’t need to worry. Or if you know your throat is likely to get dry, bring along your own water bottle, just in case. If you know red nail polish makes you feel more powerful, by all means wear it. 

For more practical advice or for executive speech coaching services, give our office a call. A Chicago speech coach can help you turn your dread for public speaking into excitement about the opportunities that each chance to speak holds. 

Stuttering Among School-Aged Child: What Parents Need to Know

Stuttering Among School Aged Children

Stuttering, or disfluency, is most simply defined as a disruption in regular speaking patterns. Stuttering can be characterized by the repetition of certain sounds, difficulty getting out words, or prolonged sounds. 

Many children will experience some level of disfluency from the ages of about two and a half to five years old. During this period, children are rapidly expanding their vocabularies and learning the complicated rules of proper language. It makes perfect sense that many children go through phases of stuttering to one degree or another during this time. 

Once children get to be school aged, though, stuttering tends to drop off significantly. At this point, children who continue to stutter or who develop a stutter can become more aware of their disfluency, and it can cause embarrassment and frustration. Even when children don’t have any other sort of developmental issues, a persistent stutter can cause a lot of academic and social difficulties for your child.  

When your school-aged child develops a stutter, or when a stutter that started in her preschool years doesn’t go away on its own or gets worse, it’s time to talk to a speech language pathologist (SLP). A Chicago SLP can help you identify factors that might be contributing to your child’s stutter and work with you and your child to help improve her fluency over time.  

Sometimes stuttering is connected to other developmental difficulties, but it can also appear on its own. Stuttering is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls, and it also tends to have a genetic component – about 60% of children who stutter have a close family member who also stuttered in their youth. 

Here are a few simple ways that you can help your child face their disfluency: 

  • Look for ways to build confidence. Give your child praise that is specific whenever they accomplish something to help them see the variety and value of their many unique skills and personality traits, not just their speaking ability. 
  • Practice active listening. Whenever possible, be patient with your child and listen to what they have to say without any sort of judgement or pressure. When you speak to them, try to speak in a slow, relaxed manner to help show them that there is no need to rush. 
  • Avoid being critical of their speech. Even well-intentioned advice like “take your time” or “try again” can be frustrating and embarrassing for children with disfluency to hear over and over again.
  • Instead, be patient, be kind, and be generous with your time and attention. 

For more information or to sign up for a free consultation with an SLP in Chicago, give our office a call. 

Most Companies Struggle with This Issue (Communication)

workplace communication

The rise of technology in the workplace has made it easier to reach people more quickly and in a wider variety of ways. It has sped up all of the processes of business and made the world in general move at a faster clip. But many would argue that all of that technology has actually led to less effective communication. 

Consider the fact that over 200 billion emails are sent every day around the world. Only one third of those emails are actually opened. And of the emails that are opened, how many get lost at the bottom of inboxes? How many get skimmed or misread or put off, which leads to follow up emails and more back and forth and attached files getting misplaced or reply-all-ed to the wrong list of people…  

Effective communication tools can be a great benefit to business. In fact, one study found that businesses with effective communication practices put in place had lower employee turnover rates than their industry averages. The trouble is figuring out how exactly to use all those tools in the most effective way and setting solid standards for the rest of your office to follow. 

The Multitudinous Benefits of Executive Speech Coaching 

You may be wondering what executive speech coaching has to do with email and other methods of communication at work. Contrary to popular belief, executive speech coaching is about a lot more than diction and projection. An executive speech coach can help leaders become more effective communicators at every level – in presentations, in team meetings, in one-on-one workplace conversations, and yes, even through email. 

Improving communication in the workplace starts with the leadership. If the team leader is sending a slew of emails with one question or reminder in each, that sort of behavior is going to affect everyone who has to stop whatever they’re doing in order to respond to each individual thing. If the leader spends thirty minutes drafting an email instead of picking up the phone and having a two-minute conversation, that behavior is going to trickle down, as well. 

If your work life suffers from a deluge of useless emails or poorly managed communication tools, a Chicago executive speech coach can help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your communication style and tools and find ways to improve that will benefit both you and the people who report to you.  

Give our office a call to learn more about the various benefits of executive speech coaching in Chicago. 

What’s the Role of a Speech Language Pathologist in Schools?

Role of SLP in Schools

As a parent, it can be a difficult experience to learn that your child is going to start working with a speech language pathologist (SLP) in their school. What does this mean about your child? Why is this necessary? What will they learn, and how much “regular” class time will they miss out on? Let’s take a look at the answers to these questions to help assuage any fears or concerns that you might have. 

Let’s begin with what an SLP is. An SLP is someone who has a master’s degree or a doctorate in speech language pathology and who has also been licensed by the state and/or Department of Education (depending upon where you live) to help people who have speech and language issues. Put more broadly, an SLP is someone who helps people communicate more clearly and effectively by building stronger speaking, reading, writing, learning, and/or focusing skills. 

Plenty of perfectly smart and healthy children have speech and language issues. Sometimes speech and language issues are caused by broader developmental delays, but not always. If your child has a lisp or dyslexia, for example, that’s something that a school SLP can help with, and it is in no way a reflection on your child’s intelligence or ability levels. 

In school settings, SLPs are usually asked to work with children when the child has a speech or language issue that effects their ability to successfully participate in classroom activities, hurts their social interactions, effects their literacy, or makes it harder for them to learn. 

An SLP at school is someone who provides a bit of extra, focused help, allowing your child to work on whatever issue they’re facing in a safe and comfortable environment. 

Many SLPs help ensure that the students they work with get the same classroom experience as their peers by using the same curriculum as the rest of the class for their sessions and simply modifying the work to help the student succeed. This helps children who work with SLPs not miss out on anything. 

If you live in the Chicago area, a Chicago speech therapist may already be available to you in your school. Seek them out and ask any questions that you may have. If your school doesn’t have a Chicago speech language pathologist, feel free to give us a call to get your questions answered, to set up a free consultation, or to inquire about hiring an SLP for your school district.  

Being a Good Presenter is an Acquired Skill, Not a Gift

Being a Good Presenter

The New York Times published an excellent article making the case for small business owners to hire speech coaches. Writer Hillary Chura made the point that while business owners might be experts in their particular field, that doesn’t automatically make them good at presenting themselves or their ideas to investors, potential clients, or even other business people. The same is true for executives at every level. 

Whether you’re running a one-woman operation or a manager in a 10,000-person organization, the ability to express yourself clearly and professionally is an important asset that should be practiced and polished. It’s a mistake to assume that some people are simply better at public speaking. While we all have our natural talents, speech and presentation skills are exactly that – skills – that can be practiced and improved upon with focus and time. 

The New York Times article uses the example of a civil engineering company that brought in a speaking trainer for one day to work with 25 people. The company had an upcoming pitch that was potentially worth millions of dollars in new business, but they were the underdogs going in. By taking the time to hone their pitch with a professional – working on timing, descriptive word choices, poise, and cohesion – the company was able to win the bid. 

Spoken presentations are a central part of the modern office. We may not all be putting together pitches to garner million-dollar deals, but we all use speech in our professional lives to one degree or another, especially at the executive level. Business leaders must: 

  • present goals and plans to their teams
  • organize meetings and keep the agenda moving forward with diplomacy
  • make their case for raises and new responsibilities to their bosses
  • pitch to new clients
  • give presentations at conferences
  • network with colleagues
  • maintain healthy and respectful workplace relationships
  • give great interviews when new opportunities arise 

If you’re looking for new ways to expand your horizons and become a more invaluable leader in 2019, executive speech training is a tool that will benefit you for the rest of your life, in and out of the office. Whether you struggle with anxiety, want to be taken more seriously, or need help preparing for a specific presentation, a Chicago speech coach can help you achieve your goals. Call today to schedule a free consultation. 

The Many Roles of a Speech Language Pathologist

role of speech language pathologist

The formal title of “speech language pathologist” or “SLP” often gets shortened to “speech therapist,” and this can cause some confusion, because the role of an SLP and the variety of speech, language, and literacy issues that an SLP can help with are incredibly varied.  

From children who are having trouble chewing and swallowing their food to stroke victims who need to relearn how to speak altogether, a qualified SLP can take a on a wide variety of roles in a person’s life. Here are some of the main areas that speech language pathologists can help with: 

Language 

A variety of disorders can affect how well a person understands what they are reading or what is being said to them. Some disorders can also make it difficult to form thoughts into words. This can be the result of damage to the brain – whether through illness or injury – or a developmental issue. An SLP can work with both children and adults who have language difficulties, giving them strategies to better express themselves and find the words they’re searching for. 

Speech 

Speech refers to the sounds that we make to express language. There are a wide variety of speech disorders that can result from over or underdeveloped muscles, damage to the mouth or throat, or other developmental difficulties. A lisp is a common speech impediment that an SLP can help with through exercises and practice. 

Literacy 

Problems with reading and writing can frequently accompany speech or language disorders. Often literacy issues can be addressed by an SLP, helping children and adults feel more confident and preparing them for greater future success. 

Communication 

When children in particular have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, that can lead to frustration, acting out, and inappropriate social behavior. SLPs can help children who have difficulty in social situations learn how to take turns, follow directions, and express themselves appropriately in a variety of social situations. 

Voice 

The tone and pitch of our voice can be hindered by injuries and illness. Regaining the ability to speak in a normal voice – or finding that ability for the first time – is something an SLP can help with. 

Fluency 

Fluency refers to how well a person’s speech flows. Someone with a stutter or other speech impediment can work with an SLP to improve fluency with practice over time. 

Feeding and Swallowing 

While nothing to do with speech or language; chewing, sipping, and swallowing have everything to do with the same muscles used in speech. SLPs can be excellent resources in addressing feeding and swallowing disorders such as dysphagia. 

To learn more or to schedule a consultation with an experienced speech language pathologist, call our office today.

Why Should Improving Your Speaking be One of Your Goals for 2019?

improving your speaking

Public speaking is said to be more feared than death. Some people literally claim that they are less afraid of dying than they are of giving a speech in front of a room of people. The big problem with this is that public speaking is all but unavoidable if you hope to have a successful career in pretty much any field. 

No, you won’t need to give a prepared speech in front of a crowded auditorium every day if you work in human resources or in software development or as an executive assistant. But the further you move up the line in practically any job, the more often you will need to present your ideas to your boss, pitch a project you’d like support for, or give compelling interviews that separate you from the crowd.  

If you don’t have the confidence and skills to speak well in both one-on-one and group situations, your opportunities for career advancement will inevitably be limited.That’s why improving your speaking should be one of your big goals for 2019. Whether you have a particular speaking event ahead of you or simply want to communicate more effectively with your boss or your employees, executive speech coaching can be a tremendous asset. 

Effective speaking is about a lot more than the words that come out of your mouth. An experienced speech coach can help with: 

  • Tone of voice and pacing
  • Projection and diction
  • Strategies for boosting confidence and calming nerves
  • Organizing presentations for maximum impact
  • Improving storytelling ability
  • Improving listening ability
  • Reading a room
  • And more.

When you work on your speaking skills, what you’re really working on are your presentation and communication skills. You’re learning how to be better understood and how to better understand others. Those are skills that have practical applications in every aspect of life, from marriage to parenting to career to friendships. 

To learn more about how to prioritize your speaking skills this year, give our office a call today.

Speech Therapy Activities for Winter: Inside the Classroom and Beyond

 

speech therapy activities

One simple way to make speech therapy more fun all year long is to incorporate different events that happen throughout the year. With the winter holidays behind us, it can feel like we’re in a bit of a lull at the beginning of each new year, but there are still plenty of winter-themed activities that can make speech therapy more enjoyable and special during this particular time of year. 

Here are a few of our favorite speech therapy activities for winter that can be enjoyed in the classroom, outside, or at home. 

“I’m building a snowman” activity. 

This is a simple game that gets children thinking creatively and learning how to take turns, all while practicing speech. Start by saying, “I’m building a snowman, and he has…” then name one item that the snowman is wearing. It could be a top hat or a carrot nose – whatever you like. Go around in a circle or back and forth (if you’re playing in pairs) and list new things that the snowman might be wearing.  

This game can turn into a lot of fun once the basics are covered and children start coming up with more and more ridiculous items (such as a unicorn horn or an astronaut’s helmet) to put on the snowman. For older children, you can add an extra element to the game by having each child repeat all of the previous items in order before adding something new to the list. 

Write and recite winter poems. 

Writing and reciting poetry is a great way to stretch those creative thinking muscles and practice rhyme, diction, and pacing. Older children can find a great deal of inspiration in falling snow, crunching leaves, and cozy fireplaces. Younger children can repeat poems after you or simply listen along. Look for winter poems with a lot of fun onomatopoetic words like “crunch” and “blustery.”

Consider taking a wintery walk to find inspiration before you write or as you recite. 

Make winter vocabulary flash cards. 

Winter is a season that comes with its own set of words. From the warm clothes we wear to the sleds we ride to the multitude of terms for falling snow, practicing winter words can be a lot of fun.

You can start with a list of words and have children draw corresponding pictures to make their own flash cards. Or you can print out flash cards and practice putting the words into sentences together.  

For more activity ideas or to schedule a consultation, feel free to call our office any time. Our Chicago speech therapists are always here to help.